When winter rolls around dogs, like their owners, may change exercise and eating habits because of the weather. In fact, It takes more calories to keep dogs warm in chilly temperatures. And while some dogs enjoy wearing sweaters and eating bigger meals, others hate dress up. Small breed dogs often have trouble munching enough nutrition to stay healthy.
At the other end of the spectrum, dogs can turn into couch-potatoes when they get less exercise. Less exercise translates into more poundage, and a fat dog is not healthy. Here are 5 winter nutrition tips to help your dog stay healthy.
Increase the Calories
For dogs that spend a lot of time outside, increase the amount of food they eat. You can do this by switching from one meal a day to two or even three small servings. Adding a drizzle of warm, no-salt chicken broth to dry food often increases food intake by about 10 percent, or feeding a puppy ration to adult dogs can increase the calories. Or simply change the food to a more calorie dense “super premium” food that is the equivalent of canine rocket fuel.
Reduce the Amount
When your dog has a poundage problem during the winter, reducing the amount of food can keep their waist trim. This may be as simple as curbing the treats, or switching to healthier low-calorie treats instead. You will need to measure the amount of food you put in the bowl, and meal-feed instead of filling up the buffet for all day grazing.
Choose Diet Food
You also can switch pudgy pooches to a weight reducing food. Like humans, weight loss in dogs must be gradual and dogs won’t enjoy the process if they’re hungry all the time. Be aware that different brands won’t have the same amount of calories and that a “diet” food from one might even have MORE calories than the “regular” food from another brand. A diet food can only be counted on to have less calories compared to that same brand’s “regular” diet.
Most commercial dog foods provide claims that they are “complete and balanced” for a dog’s specific life stage. But some dogs still benefit from a supplement that helps them with digestion, for example, or that aids with creaky arthritic knees. Consider glucosamine or chondroitin supplements if your dog's joints could use an extra boost.
Change Diets Gradually
It’s great to adjust your dogs’ diet during the winter to help them get the best nutrition possible. But switching the diet too abruptly can lead to diarrhea or vomiting, or simply prompt your pooch to snub the bowl. Instead, offer new foods slowly. Mix the new with the old food 50/50 for the first several days, and then gradually increase the new and decrease the old. Do this over a period of a week to ten days to reduce the chance of problems.
Amy Shojai is a certified animal behavior consultant, consultant to the pet care industry and the award winning author of 23 pet care books.
This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian. It has however been reviewed for accuracy by Dr. Joe, a board certified veterinary nutritionist and graduate of Cornell University's program for Veterinary Medicine.